What is the state of the relationship between the Christian and the Jew? Perhaps it is best to start from the understanding which the Apostle Paul provides in Romans 10:11-13.
“For the Scripture says, Everyone who believes on him will not be put to shame, since there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (CSB)
There is no distinction between the Christian and the Jew in the context of salvation. While the Christian is identified by following Jesus, they are still Jewish people who share in the same faith in the One True God. Christianity is itself merely a continuation of the Jewish religion, if we want to look at it from a religious standpoint. However, from the perspective provided by an understanding of salvation, there is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile, all can be saved.
In comparing ancient Israel (as the ethnic people group) with spiritual Israel (those whose faith is in God) and the modern nation of Israel, there are differences that are important from a purely anthropological position. The ethnic people group of Israel as a tribe connected by heredity and blood to Abraham is the origin of the salvation we now know. Spiritual Israel is the essence of faith in God which bonds both the covenant through blood from Abraham and those who were not born into that covenant. Romans 11:13-24 gives the analogy of branches grafted into the tree. The tree itself is the tribe of Israel born into the covenant with direct lineage to Abraham through the chosen patriarchs with the wild branches grafted in being those brought in through their faith in God. This provides for us the understanding of the shared worldview between the Jew and the Gentile of Paul’s time. In comparing this with the modern nation of Israel, we must understand that the modern nation is no longer just those Jews with direct lineage to Abraham. As a country, the modern Israel is as diverse as America, both ethnically and religiously.
In Ephesians 2:13-14, Paul tells us that, “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility.” Understanding this along with Romans 9-11, allows us to see that Israel is now a joining of both ethnic and covenant Jew with believing Gentile through the act of Christ on the cross. But what does this mean for the non-Christ believing Jew? Paul tells us in Romans 11:20-21,
“True enough; they were broken off because of unbelief, but you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but beware, because if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” (CSB)
We are all the same both in our belief, as well as in our unbelief. So, in the relationship between Christian and Jew, we are no different from one another, but instead, we are directly tied together.
It is because of the Jews and their rejection of Christ that the Gentile has come to have mercy. Also, since the Gentile was disobedient but have mercy now through faith in Christ, so to will the Jews, who are now disobedient, come to experience that same mercy through the Christian. Paul explains this in Romans 11:30-31,
“As you once disobeyed God but now have received mercy through their (the Jews) disobedience, so they too have now disobeyed, resulting in mercy to you, so that they also may now receive mercy.” (CSB)
Therefore, the Christian and the Jew are linked together in this tension of disobedience and coming to mercy through faith. Either one brings the other to mercy due to the disobedience of the other and what leads them to faith in Christ. With this understanding then, we know God has not rejected his children of Israel (Romans 11:1-2). However, considering the call of the Christian to proclaim the Gospel, are we to proclaim the Gospel to the Jew, knowing that those who do not believe in Christ have been hardened (Romans 11:7-8)?
Paul makes it clear that those who come to righteousness through faith are saved, but those who thought the law made them righteous were not (Romans 9:30-31). Paul proclaimed Christ to both the Jew and the Gentile though, and he longs for his people to come to believe with all his heart (Romans 9:1-3). So, we can understand that it is not wrong for us to declare the Gospel to the Jew. Since it is through faith we become justified, saved from our sins, those lost in the belief that obedience to the law alone brings one to righteousness must be brought to faith as well. How then can we bring the Jew to be saved? Paul tells us that “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 CSB). Given that the Jew denies Christ, and are set in the law, how then do we bring them to do this?
Those who believe there is no need to declare the Gospel to the Jew, or that it is wrong to do so, do not appreciate our relationship as brothers and sisters with them. They are misled by false understanding of the scripture or by blind pride. Jew and Gentile alike are brought together through faith in God through Christ, there is no separating us in the context of salvation (the only one that matters). So, how do they come to that? The same as we all have. Paul sets it clearly in Romans 10:14-15,
“How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” (CSB)
The relationship between the Jew and the Christian is built on our shared faith in God. Christianity is a continuation of Judaism where the Law of the covenant is fulfilled in Christ (Romans 10:4). There is no difference between the Jew and the Gentile in our need of salvation and how we come to salvation. This is no different today from what it was in the time of Paul. We are called to proclaim the Gospel to all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20) and this includes the Jews. We share a special relationship with them that does not and should not prevent our declaring the Gospel to them as well. Indeed, we should feel obligated to do so given Paul’s desire to bring it about. Therefore, may we all seek to bless Israel, for through them all the nations of the world have been blessed. We must always maintain our relationship with our brothers and sisters in God, the Jews, so that we may bring them to the same salvation that the Christ brought to us as the fulfillment of the law God gave to their ancestors.